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Tombstone, in Cochise County, is probably the most
famous and most glamorized mining town in America. Prospector
Ed Schieffelin was told he would only find his tombstone in the
“Apache-infested” San Pedro Valley. Thus he named his first silver
claim Tombstone, and it became the name of the town. Tombstone
is situated on a mesa between the Dragoon and Huachuca
Mountains at an elevation of 4,540 feet. It incorporated in 1881.
While the area later became notorious for saloons, gambling houses
and the Earp-Clanton shoot-out, in the 1880s Tombstone was larger
than Tucson and had become the most cultivated city in the
West. Massive underground water in the mines and falling silver
prices ended the boom in 1904. Having survived the Great
Depression and removal of the County Seat to Bisbee, Tombstone in
the 1930s became known as the “Town Too Tough To Die.”
Tombstone’s economy has changed drastically since its days as a
mining town. The town’s colorful history is the key factor for steady
growth. In 1962, the Department of the Interior designated
Tombstone a Registered Historical Landmark. A restoration zone
was established and a commission organized for the preservation of
its landmarks. Tourists flock to the town by the thousands, and their
business is a mainstay of the economy.
Tombstone residents are also employed in nearby Sierra Vista, Fort
Huachuca and Cochise County government agencies. The mild year-round
climate and low humidity make Tombstone an attractive
place for retirement.
Cochise County, including Tombstone, is the site of a fascinating
chapter in American history. In the early territorial days, the most
feared and craftiest of all Indians was Cochise, a Chiricahua Apache.
With the closing of the Chiricahua Apache Reservation, Geronimo
of the Western Chiricahua Apaches terrorized the area with his
raids. Today visitors can see the Chiricahua National Monument and
the Cochise Stronghold from which Indians could spot any movement
in the valley below. Fort Huachuca and the 1877 Calvary Post
Museum illustrate this Indian and pioneer heritage. Traveling the
Cochise Trail provides insight into frontier life in Arizona.
Tombstone’s pride in its western heritage is shown by its numerous
original historic buildings. The Tombstone Courthouse, originally
built in 1882, is now a state park and preserves the history of the
town and county. Other attractions and activities awaiting visitors
are the Rose Tree Inn, with the world’s largest rose tree;
Congregational Community Church; St Paul’s Episcopal Church;
Sacred Heart Catholic Church; Boot Hill Graveyard; the Bird Cage
Theater; the Crystal Palace Saloon; Big Nose Kate’s; and the O.K.
Corral. Tombstone’s early lusty days are re-enacted annually for
three days in October during the Helldorado Celebration. Each
month, a major event takes place, which depicts the western heritage
from Wyatt Earp and Nellie Cashman, “Angel of the Mining
Camp,” to Vigilante Days; and every day Western shoot-outs are
staged in the O.K. Corral or on Allen Street, and the Helldorado
Amphitheater, located at Fourth and Toughnut Street.
Things To See & Do
Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
The courthouse has a rich history beginning in 1881, when the population reached 10,000 and Cochise County was established. Then in 1882, the Victorian styled Cochise County Courthouse was built in Tombstone. The courthouse represented law and order, during a time when lawlessness was rampant. The courthouse building included the offices of sheriff, recorder, treasurer, and board of supervisors. The building also held a jail in back, under the courtroom. The cost of construction was nearly $45,000.
Many popular individuals held office at the courthouse. One very famous person was John Slaughter. Slaughter was the sheriff for Cochise County. He was known for manner in which he informed outlaws to leave the area. He was a no nonsense kind of guy.
Then in 1929, Tombstone lost the county seat to the town of Bisbee in an election. From that time on, the building went through changes. During the 1940’s, the building was a hotel. The courthouse also stood empty. Then in 1955, the Tombstone Restoration Commission took possession of it. The commission has turned it into a historical museum and as operated it as a state park since 1959.
Visitors should plan on at least an hour to take in the information at this memorable building. There are two floors of displays and exhibits. The Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park holds displays describing the history of Tombstone and Cochise County. The park features an exhibit recalling the famous fight in the O.K. Corral. There are rooms reflecting cattlemen, lawyers and life in the early times in Tombstone. Visitors will see antiques and artifacts used by former residents of Tombstone. Outside the courthouse there are the gallows where outlaws were hung.
The Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park is open everyday from 8:00 to 5:00 pm and is closed on Christmas. The cost of admission is $2.50 and children 7-13 are $1.00. The park also has a gift shop that includes terrific books on Arizona history and local history.
The Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park is located at the corner of Toughnut Street and Third Street in Tombstone. It’s exact address is 219 East Toughnut Street. You can get to the park from U.S. 80 (from Benson or Bisbee) by turning south on Third Street and traveling down to the corner of Toughnut Street. If you would like to learn more about the park, call 520-457-3311.
This is a remarkable building. The architecture alone is amazing. This is a good first stop on your Tombstone visit. The Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park gives you a great overview of the town.
Rose Tree Inn Museum
The Rose Tree Inn Museum has the most amazing sight you will see. The Guinness Book of World Records confirms yearly that the world’s largest rosebush is located at the Rose Tree Inn Museum in Tombstone. The Lady Banksia rosebush covers nearly 8,600 square feet and looks more like a tree than a bush. It is quite impressive.
The plant’s beginning started with a cutting sent from Scotland in 1885, as a wedding gift. Since then the rose tree has filled the air with the fragrance of white blossoms. The best time to make a visit is during the spring when it is covered with blooms. Not only will visitors see this remarkable rose tree, but visitors will also tour a historic adobe home that has antiques and displays describing the town. The museum also has a large collection of locks that is unique.
The Rose Tree Inn Museum is open everyday from 9:00 to 5:00 pm, except on Christmas. The admission is $2.00 and children under 14 are free when accompanied by an adult.
You can get to the Rose Tree Inn Museum from U.S. 80 (from Benson or Bisbee) by turning south on Fourth Street and traveling down to the corner of Toughnut Street. The museum is at the corner of Fourth Street and Toughnut, at 116 South Fourth Street. If you would like more information on the park, call 520-457-3326.
The Rose Tree Inn Museum is a special place. This beautiful rosebush is living in the tough wild west town. It is a contrast you won’t want to miss.
The most famous western gunfight occurred in Tombstone at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881. The fight was over, who held the power in Cochise County. The battle was between the McLowery clan and the Clanton clan, who were cattle rustlers on the side and U.S. Marshall Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holiday, a notorious gunfighter.
The fight took place in a lot at Freemont and 3rd Street. It started with the Clanton group stirring up trouble with tough talk. Wyatt Earp responded by sticking a gun into the belly of one of the Clanton’s, who fled the scene. Then, within seconds the gunfight started. When the dust cleared, three of the Clanton clan members were dead and two of the Earp brothers were seriously injured. The battle continued with the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday being cleared of murder charges. Then a few months later, in the dark of night Virgil Earp was shot. The injury left him with a crippled arm for life. Later, Morgan Earp was shot and killed. Wyatt Earp was angered by these shootings and killed three men he suspected of making these attacks.
Many historians still discuss and argue what really happened that day. There are many accounts of what took place. When you visit the O.K. Corral today, you will learn of one version. The story is shown by life-sized figures standing in the corral where the fight took place. A narrator describes the shootout, which has made Tombstone famous. Nearby you will see the Fly Photographic Studio which houses historical photographs of Geronimo’s surrender.
The cost of admission is $1.00 and children under 6 are free. If you would like more information, call 502-457-3456.
The O.K. Corral is located on Allen and Third Street in downtown Tombstone. You can get there from U.S. Highway 80 by heading south on Third Street. You will travel south on Third Street, until you come to the corner of Allen and Third. You will see signs directing you to the corral.
Many Hollywood movies have been made about this famous gun battle, it is exciting to walk were this piece of history took place. It is a must see when visiting Tombstone.
Here’s what you need to know for Tombstone
The three outdoor activities are Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Garden Canyon and Coronado National Memorial and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area are all ones you have used before. They are not new.
The Rose Tree Inn Museum, O.K. Corral and the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic State Park are attractions and they are all new. You don’t have to replace. They are new.
That is it. I am moving on to Benson.
The history of Tombstone began with Edward Schieffelin, a prospector in search of silver. In March of 1877, Schieffelin decided to head off east past Fort Huachuca in search of wealth. The locals told him, he was crazy. The area he was venturing into was Apache Indian country. Everyone said he that the only thing he was going to find was his own tombstone.
Soon afterward, Schieffelin staked a silver claim. In remembrance of what the locals had predicted his future to be, Schieffelin named the mining claim “Tombstone.” Then he persuaded his brother, Al and Richard Gird to come out and help him strike it rich. Right after they made camp, Schieffelin discovered silver. Ed Schieffelin’s brother could not believe his brother’s good fortune and responded by saying “You’re a lucky cuss.” Thus, Ed named the mine “Lucky Cuss”, which became one of the richest mines in Arizona. It was estimated that over $1,000,000 of silver came from the mine.
The mine grew and a small town was established known as Goose Flats. Then 1879, the name was changed to Tombstone to honor the prospector, who started it all. It was in the same year, that the town was incorporated. During Tombstone’s hay-day the town was a wild place. There were a variety of saloons and gambling halls, which brought in trouble. Tombstone was one of the largest and wickedest mining towns in the west.
The town grew rapidly and by 1881 the population reached 10,000. The new growth caused the naming of a new county, Cochise County. In 1883, the Cochise County Courthouse was built in Tombstone. The courthouse represented law and order and included the offices of sheriff, recorder, treasurer, and board of supervisors. The cost of the courthouse was nearly $45,000.
One of the most famous events that took place in Tombstone was the gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881. The shootout was over who had the power in Cochise County. The battle pitted the McLowery group and the Clanton clan, who had a sideline as cattle rustlers against the U.S. Marshall, Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holiday, a notorious gunfighter. When the dust cleared, three men from the Clanton clan were dead and two of the Earp brothers were injured. It was a fight that was known throughout the West and historians continue to argue about what really happened that day.
After $37,000,000 worth of silver had been mined and ten years of active life had passed, the mines took a turn. Water began steeping into the mineshaft. Pumps were used to get the water out, yet to no avail. The mines were flooded up to the 600-foot level and the mines were closed down.
By 1886, the combination of collapsing silver prices, town fires and the flooded mines led to the town’s decline. The bad news continued. In 1929, an election revealed that the county seat would be moved to Bisbee, where it remains today.
Although Tombstone began to decrease in size, it has survived. Tombstone has built its reputation and future on the phrase “The Town Too Tough To Die.” It is now a popular tourist attraction with countless historic buildings and western stories.